Woman with pelvic inflammatory disease placing her hands over her abdomen in pain

What Is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Medically reviewed on May 19, 2023 by Karen Janson, MS, MD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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PID, or pelvic inflammatory disease, is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation in the reproductive system. [1] While treatable with antibiotics, it must be diagnosed and addressed early to prevent long-term structural damage and infertility.

Whether you’re concerned that you’re showing PID symptoms or have recently been diagnosed with it, learning about PID’s causes, symptoms, and options for treatment can be the first step in preventing the complications associated with the condition.

What Causes Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

You can think of pelvic inflammatory disease as an umbrella term that describes inflammation that spreads from the vagina and cervix to the upper parts of the AFAB reproductive system. Organs that may be impacted by PID include: [2]

  • The uterus
  • The ovaries
  • The fallopian tubes

85% of PID cases result from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from a sexual partner. [2,3] The STIs most commonly responsible are: [1,3]

  • Chlamydia – Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium C. trachomatis. In many cases, chlamydial infection is asymptomatic.3 For this reason, it’s important to test for chlamydia regularly if you are sexually active.
  • GonorrheaGonorrhea in women and men is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium N. gonorrhoeae. PID caused by gonorrhea tends to have more severe and lasting adverse health effects than PID caused by chlamydia. [3] In addition, it’s not uncommon for a person to contract both gonorrhea and chlamydia at the same time from a sexual partner. [4]

Evidence suggests that 10–15% of people who contract either of these STIs will later develop PID. [3] Complications like PID are, in part, one of the reasons why diagnosing STIs early through testing is such an important part of overall reproductive healthcare.

Private STD consultations

Risk Factors for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

While PID is caused by a bacterial infection, several lifestyle choices are statistically associated with an elevated risk of developing it: [1]

  • Being sexually active under 25 years of age
  • Having multiple sexual partners or a partner that has sex with others
  • Using vaginal cleaning products (like douches) that may irritate the body
  • Not recognizing an STI and obtaining prompt treatment [2]
  • Having previously been diagnosed with PID

Signs and Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

At times, pelvic inflammatory disease may present with no observable symptoms.1 If PID symptoms do occur, you may notice: [1]

  • Fever
  • Lower abdominal pain or pelvic pain
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Vaginal discharge that carries an odor
  • Discomfort or burning during urination
  • Pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)

If you observe any of these symptoms and suspect you may have PID, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Untreated PID can lead to: [1]

  • Damage to reproductive organs – Left unaddressed, PID can cause abscesses, scarring, and structural impairment of reproductive organs like the fallopian tubes. These changes can result in chronic pelvic pain.[3]
  • Ectopic pregnancy – In one study, nearly 8% of women with a history of PID experienced an ectopic pregnancy, a condition where a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus.3 This can make a pregnancy nonviable, jeopardize maternal health, and can even result in maternal fatality.
  • Infertility – Approximately 1 in every 8 women contend with fertility challenges after being diagnosed with PID. [3] Delayed diagnosis and treatment increases the risk of intertility.[3]

How Is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Treated?

Fortunately, PID is treatable with antibiotics.2 However, it is extremely important to contact a healthcare provider if you suspect you may have the condition. A medical expert can review your history, perform an examination, arrange laboratory testing, and help you understand what antibiotics treat pelvic inflammatory disease. It is also very important your partner(s) be tested and complete treatment to reduce the possibility of recurring infection. [3]

One of the most effective ways to minimize your risk of PID is to practice preventative approaches to sexual health, such as:

  • Limiting your number of sexual partners – The CDC recommends a long-term monogamous relationship as a preventative measure for PID.2 Put simply, the fewer people you and your partner are intimate with, the less likely you are to contract an STI that could lead to PID.
  • Using a condom – Barrier methods of contraception, like latex condoms, can help reduce your exposure to infection-causing bacteria. [2]
  • Testing for STIs regularly – Regular sexual health testing can ensure you know your STI status early and get treated for infections that could lead to PID. By prioritizing your sexual health, you’ll be protecting others, too.

Prioritize Sexual Health Testing at Home with Everlywell

Making sexual health testing a cornerstone of your wellness routine helps prevent reproductive conditions like PID. If you’re concerned you may have an infection that could lead to PID, Everlywell can help.

Our discrete, at home STD test screens for six sexually transmitted infections: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, HIV, syphillis, and trichomoniasis. If abnormal results are detected, you will have the opportunity to connect with a physician network and may receive treatment.

Our virtual care services allow you to meet with licensed clinicians, at your convenience. If you think you’re showing signs of PID, a healthcare provider can meet with you virtually to discuss your concerns. Then, if needed, you may receive online STI treatment.

Taking control of your health has never been easier. Start today with Everlywell.

What Antibiotics Treat Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Chlamydia in women: what you need to know

What Happens if BV Goes Untreated?


  1. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Medline Plus - The National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed May 11, 2023.
  2. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – CDC Basic Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed May 11, 2023.
  3. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed May 11, 2023.
  4. What are some types of and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases (stds) or sexually transmitted infections (stis)? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. URL. Accessed May 5, 2023.
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